“Taxes are paid in the sweat of every man who labors.”
Franklin Roosevelt

Travel Taxes and Fees

This blog was written before the COVID Pandemic. The COVID epidemics played havoc on the travel business. In 2022, Fifty Plus Nomad decided to focus on traveling and living in Mexico and language learning posts. We will only update these long-term travel-related posts on a time-permitting basis. We would appreciate your comments and updates on these posts.

Over the past twenty years, particularly since 9/11, I have noticed a dramatic increase in charges (taxes and fees). Thirty years ago, these charges were 10-40% of what they are today. They have become a significant part of all Fifty Plus Nomad budgets. (Note: They are often, as you will see, hidden)

It is increasingly difficult to understand these charges because the number has also increased. The names can also be quite confusing.

Airfare Travel Taxes and Fees

Nowadays, most websites will include all taxes (but not fees) in the airfare they quote you when you book airfare. 

Sometime before you buy the tickets, you will see an accounting. Depending on where you go, these travel taxes and fees usually constitute between 5 and 50% of your total airfare.

On some exceptionally low-cost flights, you may even pay more for travel taxes and fees than for the flight! (Some taxes are a percentage of the fare; others are a set amount per flight, and some even depend on whether you fly Economy or First-Class).

Of the 15 most popular destinations for American travelers, valuepenguin.com found that the UK charges the most at $209; Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are next at $158 and $146, respectively.

Taxes in Mexico and Canada constitute about 30% of the average airfare. 

USA Airfare: Travel Taxes and Fees

The USA’s additional travel taxes and fees range from 15-40% of the airfare. (Generally, the lower the cost of the ticket, the higher the percentage of additional charges paid). The following is a list of the other typical charges in the US:

  • September 11 security fee ($5.60 in each direction).
  • Passenger facility charge (varies, but capped at $4.50-$18 per flight. Funds Federal Aviation Administration activities).
  • Federal domestic segment fee ($4 per flight segment. A flight segment is one takeoff and one landing.)
  • Travel facilities tax (only applicable to flights to/from/between the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii).
  • Immigration user fee ($3 for flights arriving from countries near the US and $7 for countries farther away. Not charged for domestic flights).
  • Customs user fee ($2.97 for flights arriving from countries near the US and $5.89 for countries farther away. Not charged for domestic flights).
  • APHIS (for agricultural inspections) user fee ($3.97 per flight. Not charged for domestic flights).
  • Federal excise tax (8% on domestic flights)

Generally, most of these charges go toward:

  • Improving airports.
  • Airport security.
  • Air traffic control.
  • Tourist marketing and infrastructure. 
  • Occasionally, environmental mitigation.

Many travel experts believe that many governments divert these fees for other purposes.

When flying internationally, be aware that occasionally (less and less frequently), you will need to pay an additional charge at the airport before departing the country in Latin America. (Almost every airport imposes the tax, but you usually pay the fee as part of the initial ticket purchase).

Hotel Travel Taxes and Fees

Unlike airfares, most hotel websites in the US and Canada do not quote you the prices with these additional taxes and fees included. You often will need to wait until you are about to book the room. Then you will find out the total costs, including these additional charges. Some websites like hotels.com just let you know the final amount without detailing where the charges are going. (Hotels.com also includes an undisclosed fee for their services).

These additional travel taxes and fees in the US and Canada are usually between 15-25% of the room costs. These additional charges are “occupancy taxes or fees.”. You will also often pay these additional charges on Airbnb rentals as well.

In most other countries, the quoted price includes all the additional charges. Often you won’t know how much you paid in extra costs, even at check-out.

Occasionally, value-added taxes, or VATs, are listed on the hotel bill. Usually, the VAT on hotel rooms is the same as most other items in that country. (VATs typically add 15% to 25% to the cost). Most of the time, VAT is included in the room price.

Some European cities will charge a couple of Euros a day per person per night in local fees at check-in. Hotels usually indicate these fees on their websites.

Cruise Port Travel Taxes and Fees

Like hotels, most cruise companies and online travel agencies do not include port fees in the first price quoted. You pay the fees, however, at purchase.

Typically, you will pay between 10 to 25 percent for these additional taxes and fees. These charges include the following: baggage handling at departure and final destination, security, towboats, facility charges, etc. Generally, you won’t see any accounting for these additional charges.

Car Rental Travel Taxes and Fees

Like most non-airline-related travel services, car rental websites usually do not include additional charges in their initial price quote. These charges add between 10 and 25 percent to most rentals. Usually, you will have to pay the charges when you rent the car. You will find out the total price when you make your reservation.

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Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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